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Jim Causley Buick

Revised Borders plan to council


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September 05, 2013
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Councilmembers are likely to consider at their 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, meeting a revised proposal to transform the vacant Borders Books building in the Village into a healthcare facility with retail space fronting Kercheval.

Revisions are closer to complying with City of Grosse Pointe requirements for significant ground-floor retail presence along Kercheval, while allowing rear portions and upper levels of buildings to be used for other purposes.

The $5.4 million proposal, presented informally to the council Monday, Aug. 19, by representatives of St. John Providence Health System, divides the 162-foot-deep, 18,366-square-foot Borders building into:

medical offices, diagnostic stations and physical therapy treatment space facing the rear and

up to three retail spaces facing Kercheval.

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The ratio of retail to non-retail floor space is roughly 45 to 55 percent, and more than doubles retail area St. John proposed in June to the council.

City ordinance reserves the front 60 percent of first-floor space for retail.

"The council was informally supportive of the revisions," said John Jackson, executive vice president of McKenna Associates, city planning consultant. "They directed us to look at the zoning ordinance to see if there were things we could do to make what St. John is proposing fit into the ordinance."

A special public hearing on proposed amendments to the C-2 commercial district was scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, after this week's Grosse Pointe News deadline.

The Borders building, vacant since the book store chain's bankruptcy three years ago, is part of a block of three neighboring empty storefronts on the downtown commercial district's eastern boundary.

St. John retained Robert Wood & Associates, of the City, to design the building's new facade.

"I kept it French and very community-specific," Wood said. "I don't want it to look like Royal Oak or Birmingham."

He kept in mind the building's large scale and location next to a residential neighborhood.

"I try to look at it from the perspective of homeowners who back up to it, to soften it and make it blend into the neighborhood," Wood said.

His design partitions a rather uniform brick face Kercheval into three storefronts. Wood proposes installing new brick, picture windows, adding awnings and a hipped roof topped with copper finials.

"We'll distress the copper and use distressed brick," Wood said.

He favors a European architectural influence that never goes out of style, he said.

"This is a 100-year solution to that building," Wood said. "It ties into the area and creates character where it was lacking."

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